Deconstructing electoral fraudsters’ fiendish and operable scheme

Osei Ec Charlotte Osei, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana

Wed, 8 Jun 2016 Source: Badu, K

It would seem inconceivable for anybody to repudiate the proven cases of voracious votes rigging in contemporary elections; given the electoral fraudsters demonstrable infernal instruments of votes rigging.

Verily, there have been instances of electoral fraud in elections across the world: In the 2015 UK general elections for instance, the Daily Express newspaper reported that Police were called in over suspected electoral fraud at Glasgow East polling station.

The paper reported that all the cases were about personation, where people pretended to be someone else and cast a vote, and then the real person turned up.

There were also anecdotal reports of ten similar cases in Glasgow during last September’s independence referendum.

This followed several Scottish newspapers reports prior to the Scottish referendum on how children as young as three to eleven years old were being handed with ballot cards.

The newspapers alleged that the parents of the innocent children however reported the cases to the authorities.

The UK Electoral Commission chairwoman, Jenny Watson, delivering a keynote address prior to the 2015 general elections, observed: "Proven cases of electoral fraud remain rare, but it is important that no-one underestimates how serious it is when it does occur”.

"We have long known that, when electoral fraud is committed, candidates and campaigners are the most likely offenders and voters are the victims” (Watson 2015).

The facts, though, remain that electoral fraudsters’ will go to every extent to ensure victory for their preferred candidate, especially, in our part of the world-developing countries (Ames 1995).

Thus the incumbency, with the able connivance of the electoral officials, would roll up a fiendish and operable plan which may include caging, spoiling, computerization, tossing and rejecting.


In most advanced democracies for example, caging may be used by the electoral fraudsters’ to suppress the opponent’s votes. The election officials would often draft “do-not-forward” first-class letters to selected groups, and would diabolically use letters “returned” to evidence that voters' listed addresses are fraudulent. The partisan election officials can then strike out the voters' names from registration rolls and/or throw out their mail-in ballots.

For instance, this can happen to Service men and women serving overseas, and choosing to exercise their absentee voting from their home addresses. In the same vein, this may happen to students away at school and even to voters whose addresses on registration rolls contain fatal typos made by the election officials.


Ballot spoiling on the other hand, may be carried out in a number of ways, a popular one, for example, is to put punched-card voting setups in constituencies, or strongholds of the opposition party. Then disqualify all votes where the voter did not manage to punch the hole all the way through, as in the infamous “hanging chads" in Florida in 2000.


“Computerization" is used in most democracies. “Computerization" is the process of using computerized "black box" voting machines. These machines are notoriously subject to sophisticated, vote-changing "hacking".

But then again, a great deal of damage is affected just by "glitches", where the machines simply fail to record votes. This is taken advantage of, in the simplest case, by placing the oldest and least reliable machines in the opposition party’s precincts or strongholds.


Tossing is the fate of most provisional ballots. A wrongfully-purged voter, challenged at the polls, is given a provisional ballot. When the registration is checked later, the original, bogus, reason for purging is uncovered, and the ballot is tossed. And, there is no arrangement for seeking out and correcting invalid purging.


In some democracies for instance, rejecting happens to mail-in ballots when partisan election officials can find excuses, often frivolous, for not recording the ballots. An 'X' in a box instead of a filled-in box, for example, or a stray mark in some inconsequential place. Or simply "losing" the ballot outright; and the best part is the voter never learns what happened.

And who informed you that elections are not susceptible to ravenous rigging?

As a matter of fact electoral malpractices are rampant in both advanced and emerging democracies. However, if such obnoxious practices failed to have any significant effect on the outcome of the elections, then it can be overlooked. Having said that, it becomes very alarming if the said contemptible practices do turn out to be too costly to a particular party or candidate.

There is no denying of the fact that electoral cheats’ will do everything possible to devise a scheme to gain electoral advantage over their opponents. A typical example is when in 2013, a Councillor from Manchester in the United Kingdom disowned his daughter who was his opponent in local council elections due to electoral fraud.

His daughter, who represented the Labour Party, came victorious in the county council elections. However, her father who was the incumbent and the representative of the UK Independent Party uncovered electoral malpractices and reported the matter to the police.

Her father discovered that she had earlier registered four voters from another country in her home address.

In an attempt to exonerate themselves from the opprobrium, the leadership of the Labour party went ahead and dismissed the ignominious electoral fraudster.

The worst part of votes rigging, though, is the deserving winners’ may never know they ever won. How cruel, how pathetic and how unfair that would be?

In my opinion votes rigging has perceptible likeness to the violation of allegiance towards the nation. Therefore such a high crime must not and cannot be overlooked with a stark perfunctory.

It is indeed unfortunate that the electorates’ would go to the polls with a view to voting for their preferred candidate, and only for the people behind the scenes to select who should become a winner.

And, if those people are not criminally minded, what are they then?

I shall return, until then, the watchword is VIGILANCE.

Columnist: Badu, K